Sydney: March and April 2022.

Sydney: March and April 2022.

In this post, we will depart temporarily from our sailing and travelling news, to report on the whirlwind of activities in selling our family home and downsizing to a smaller townhouse, since arriving back in Sydney. Also, I report on the treatment for my prostate cancer diagnoses, while all this was happening. After six years of carefree sailing around the world, this post may serve as therapy, to get my head around this new reality. In the previous post I mentioned how, a MRI scan in Newcastle confirmed cancer in my prostate and how, immediately after arriving back in Sydney we set about selling our house in Allambie Heights and putting further sailing plans on hold for the time being.

On the 25th March, after viewing enough townhouses and apartments to last us a lifetime, our offer of $1,550,000 was accepted for unit 17 at 153 Garden Street, Warriewood. We had viewed more than 50 properties in two months before finding this gem, which suited us perfectly – a two bedroom, one bathroom, one garage townhouse, all on one level.

Plan

Front deck and garden

Lounge/dining

It seemed like Christmas when, while having a celebratory lunch at the Harbord Diggers Club, I had a call from NSW Maritime to tell me they had a mooring available for Esprit at Refuge Cove near RMYC. The annual rental of $1072 is a lot less than the $605 monthly rental we pay at RMYC. All our old Madison Way friends joined us for a celebratory dinner on Friday evening the 25th March, with much champagne, wine and food for all.

Kitchen

Main bedroom

Rear courtyard

On the 30th March 2022, I checked into North Shore Private Hospital to have gold fiducial markers inserted into my prostate, in preparation radiation therapy. This was followed by a visit to the department of Nuclear Medicine at Royal North Shore Hospital for a Positron Emission Tomography Scan (PET), where I was given a radioactive injection so that the PET scanner could diagnose and locate the cancers in the prostate and possibly, the lymph glands.

Finally, on the 11th April, I had a MRI scan and an CT planning scan at Nuclear Medicine for planning and draw up a radiation schedule for my treatment. For this purpose I was given three pinhead tattoos on my hips and lower abdomen, to ensure accurate positioning during radiation. Being the first in our family to get tattoos, I am now ready for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle! The facilities at the private and adjoining public hospital, were ultra modern and the staff service was exceptional, with very little waiting times for appointments or tests.

Annie with the new sails and battens for Esprit.

Kristian and Michelle helping us to fit the new 70kg mainsail, lazy jacks and reefing lines.

During April, Annie’s brother Joe and his partner Mary came to visit us from New Zealand. Mary’s sister Annie lives near us and we enjoyed some fantastic walks and catching up during their visit. We had a fortuitous spell of sunshine and good weather during this time.

Joe and the two Annie’s at Barrenjoey lighthouse.

Dirk, Annie and Mary with the Pacific Ocean on the left and the Pittwater on the right.

I had volunteered to participate in the Optimal Prostate Fractional Study at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre. This study is to compare the outcomes of prostate radiation through the standard 20 treatments over four weeks, with 5 treatments in larger doses, over a two week period. This new technology has acceptable side effects and promising effectiveness, compared to the 20 treatment programme. As much as I wanted to be on the shorter programme, the randomized selection allocated me to the 20 treatment programme, which will commence on the 10th May 2022.

On the 28th April 2022, I clicked over to 75 years on this mortal coil, a milestone that wasn’t vaguely contemplated during my youth. It also marked 35 years since Annie persuaded me to leave bachelorhood behind and get married – and what a journey that has been!

D&A wedding 1987.

Look at us now.

Our neighbours in Madison Way decided to give us a farewell party before we moved 14 km to the North. Most of the early settlers in the ‘hood, 21 years ago, attended a lunch at Ross and Heather Allan’s house on the 30th April. It was great to catch up with everyone and hear about their kids – some were babes in arms back then. We reminisced about the great Christmas and street parties we had, progressive dinners and other milestones, such as late night aerobics in Paul’s spa bath! This is a great community and we will stay in touch – 14 km is but a hop, skip and jump away.

Tall Ross on the right, welcoming the early settlers.

Neville Cleary (88) the developer of Madison Way, presented with his Mayoral chain.

Dirk, founding party reprobate presented with farewell socks.

Lunch time.

Table 2.

On that note, we end this post – we will report on our new mini abode nearer the Pittwater and Esprit, in due course.

Cheers for now.

 

Sydney January to March 2022.

Sydney January to March 2022.

SV Esprit tied up at the Royal Motor Yacht Club on Friday 14 January 2022. The next day we were issued with new photo ID security cards, replacing our six year old membership cards and registering our vehicle number plate for the new camera gate opening system. All these changes were introduced during our absence, as well as other new or improved club facilities.

Michelle & Kristian.

Michelle invited her friend Kristian for a sail a day later. We sailed over to Towlers Bay and after picking up a mooring went ashore to climb up to the Bairne Lookout for a panoramic view of the Pittwater across Morning Bay and Scotland Island to the South.

Having a breather while climbing up to the lookout.

Annie showing no strain.

Looking out over Morning Bay with a huge Gin palace at anchor.

We sailed to and anchored in The Basin further north on the Pittwater, for a walk and a swim and our evening BBQ of leg of lamb and salads.

Michelle and some friendly ducks.

Full moon rising over Barrenjoey lighthouse.

On the Monday Kristian and Michelle helped us take the main and jib sails and the mainsail boom bag down for repairs. After they left, we started the process of getting our house ready for sale. The house was looking tired after the tenants. We interviewed two estate agents to handle the marketing and sale and got two quotes to paint the house inside and out and two quotes to cut back and clean the overgrown garden.

Our house plans.

I bought a new Karcher high pressure water cleaner and a wet/dry vacuum cleaner and set about cleaning the outside of the house, the balconies, the eaves, the garage and storage area below the house. By the Friday the painters had already painted all the ceilings in the house and I had finished water blasting the outside of the house, the driveway, the retaining walls and the timber deck at the back. Annie was working apace on the admin and organising of all the details and searching for our new house.

Street facade after cleaning and painting.

On the Saturday we visited five open house inspections to get a feel for the current property market. The following week the painters and us gave it a good go, only taking off Australia Day on the 26th January. By Friday the internal painting was done and seven more open house inspections was on our agenda for the Saturday.

The back garden and timber deck.

By Tuesday evening the 1st February, everything was done and dusted: the house painted inside and out, gardens trimmed and cleaned with new wood chips on the ground and the stove rehabilitated (it was a mess). I also stripped the old coats of deck finish and applied two coats of new decking oil to the timber deck at the back of the house.

Our bedroom after styling.

On the Thursday “Furnish and Finish” arrived and styled the house – we very nearly didn’t recognise the place when we arrived after they had done their styling. On the Friday  the 4th February, three weeks after we arrived back in Sydney, we took all the stuff we needed at our house from the boat and tied Esprit up at a new mooring near Scotland Island.

Kitchen and meals area after styling.

We then moved back into our new look house to celebrate with a bottle of wine and a knock up spag bol on our one plate induction cooker plate ($50 at Aldi’s), before collapsing on our familiar bed for a well deserved sleep. On Saturday a new fridge and washing machine was delivered for use during the potential three months stay, until settlement of a sale.

Lounge and dining area – I think our furniture would have looked better.

Sunday was busy day with me applying a last coat of decking oil to our rear timber deck, before having our old neighbours over for sundowners late afternoon. Following the photo shoot of the house on the Monday, brochures were produced in record time for our first home open for inspection on Saturday the 12th February: 23 groups came through and 6 contracts were taken, which according to our agent, was looking promising,

Downstairs family room.

Wednesdays and Saturdays became a merry-go-round of open house inspections for us, as we tried to find a small two bedroom, one bathroom lock-up and go townhouse. Clearly Australian house designs have morphed into magnificent 4-5 bedroom, 2-3 bathroom, double garage McMansions (of which, our  house is a good example). We jokingly discussed moving into the Narrabeen caravan park, as we have become quite used to compact boat living, were not used to keeping up with the Joneses and preferred to march to our own drum. We also briefly looked at retirement villages for the over 55’s in Bayview, but Annie felt we were not yet ready for that.

Walking in the Warriewood Wetlands

On the 24th February our other project, the upgrading of Esprit’s sails, canvas work and running gear, took another step forward with the delivery of a new 50 m2 Fastnet 9.9oz offshore fully battened mainsail, a 42 m2 Fastnet 9.9oz offshore furling headsail and a 115 m2 Fibremax 2.2oz radial cut Code C sail on a Sveggen furling system. This $17,000 investment will keep Esprit sailing for many more years to come, as these specifications are bullet proof.

Beautifully preserved Warriewood Wetlands.

At a meeting with our agents, halfway through the house sale campaign, it appeared that the property market had softened since the buying frenzy at the end of 2021, when the most recent house sale in our street fetched almost $2.5 million. Our pragmatic view after 25 years of buying and selling property in Australia, is that the property market is a bit like the Lotto and that the market will decide the price, despite the valuations the agents often estimate.

Wildlife in the Wetlands.

In the meantime, Karen and Evan did the Jervis Bay triathlon on 26 February. They were glad that the continuous three week deluge of rain flooding the East coast of Australia, eased up to a light drizzle for this event. The two of them are flying to Bogota in early May, to spend three months exploring South America, before she starts her next registrar’s contract in Sydney. Michelle who finishes her contract with the UN in India at end April, will be flying to Europe in May to spend three months of R&R travelling in Europe, before taking on another assignment.

For the past year Karen has been working in Accidents and Emergency surgery under Prof. Balogh, the head of Traumatology and Surgery at the John Hunter hospital in Newcastle. She was stoked when she and Balogh operated with Prof. Munjed Al Muderis in Sydney on 2 March. Al Muderis a former boat refugee, is the leading expert on osseointegration. (Direct titanium prosthetic implants into the bone structure) See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munjed_Al_Muderis

The Curl-Curl walk, looking towards North Curl-Curl.

During all this activity, I went for a long overdue medical checkup and blood tests. The result of an increased PSA level (Prostate Specific Antigen), resulted in a MRI scan of my prostate, followed two weeks later by a needle biopsy. The MRI and biopsy confirmed the presence of cancer in two areas of my prostate. My urologist Dr. Kris Rasiah, advised radiation treatment rather than surgery.

I have an appointment with Prof. Tom Eade, a radiation oncologist at Sydney University, to start a four week course of External Beam Radiation Therapy, which has the advantage of being a non invasive treatment. In all other respects, I am riddled with good health, but I will keep you posted on developments and hopefully, a positive prostate outcome.

Rough seas at South Curl-Curl.

Mario our agent did a lot of work before auction day, Saturday the 5th March, to ensure at least two bidders on the day. He also received two offers in the week leading up to auction and on the Friday, with all things considered, we decided to accept the highest offer of $2,200,000.

We had seen two townhouses in Warriewood near the Pittwater, which suited our requirements with two bedrooms, one bathroom and one garage, the usual lounge/dining/kitchen configuration with compact front and back gardens – all on one level, for around $1,400,000. A no-brainer really, leaving us with at least $500,000 to spend on a V12 Ferrari – or not! The outcome will be revealed in due course in our next post.

Cheers for now.

Newcastle to Sydney.

Newcastle to Sydney.

Annie and I enjoyed a 5 week break from sailing in Newcastle, about 2 hours (155 km) north of our home in Sydney. Esprit was tied up at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, where we spent some nights, while on other nights we stayed at Eugene Quinn’s (Evan’s dad) quaint turn of the century house in Mayfield east, not far from Karen’s house in Mayfield.

Eugene’s house.

Eugene’s backyard with a cosy flat and a you beaut shed.

Eugene spends most of his time in Anna Bay near Port Stephens and insisted we stay at his house. We took out our bikes and when not walking, we cycled with Karen and Evan to see the sights of Newcastle – including the pub where they first met some years ago.

The pub where two pairs of eyes met across a crowded room.

Bear with me, as this post won’t be about sailing, but about our family, as we haven’t seen our daughters in three years. It was great to spend time with Karen and Michelle, catch up with their news, meet their friends, explore Newcastle and have some home comforts for a change.

Karen’s house with her spotless little Nissan Micra which she has been driving for the last 13 years.

On our first Friday night in town we went to the exhibition of the theses for the Master degree in Architecture at Newcastle University – Karen’s friend was exhibiting her thesis. It was most interesting to see how the content and presentation of these theses have changed since our days at Architecture school back in the sixties/seventies. The work is now more conceptual with little or no understanding of building technology or structural design. I am sure the engineers will come to the rescue!

Design and presentation are now computerised which is understandable, as working on a drawing board is hard yakka.  Apart from that, what used to be a 6 year course concluding with a thesis to gain a B. Arch. and then 2 years working as an architect in training, has now been condensed into 3 years for a B.Arch. and another 2 years for a M. Arch.

How can that be? I suppose the young folks of today are much smarter and technical proficiency is no longer a requirement in the real world. That is only my view, but the one thing that has not changed since my day, are the eccentric and sometimes weird characters studying architecture! — Enough of that, now on to some music.

Eugene (right) having a band practice with his mates at his house.

Brett at Wednesday night band practice.

A few days after arriving in Newcastle, we took up the Government’s offer of Covid booster shots, as it was six months since our vaccinations in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Just as well, as the next week the new Omicron strain of the virus started spreading like wildfire. In the interest of science and in an effort to develop a new oral vaccine for this new threat, I tirelessly self-medicated each evening, carefully evaluating the efficacy of various cultivars of Australian wine. The jury is still out on the results, but I will selflessly pursue my research.

For the rest of the time leading up to Christmas, we met Evan’s family, all of them warm and down to earth people. Evan is a liberated and caring young man – also a romantic, as we learned. He proposed to Karen in the rain under a picnic shelter at Nobby’s Beach, with one of their favourite local musicians, Lili Crane playing Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” for them. Karen was surprised.

A wet Evan pops the question to a wet Karen.

Kaz & Quinno (as their mates call them) with Lili Crane.

Evan also presented Karen with a ring, which left Annie jealous, quickly reminding me that the only ring I ever gave her, was the ring around the inside of the bathtub.

Newcastle, the coal and once, the steel hub of New South Wales, has an amazing collection of historical buildings and Victorian workers cottages, as well as some well designed modern buildings, interspersed with factories and old trade businesses.

The old Technical College on Hunter Street.

A veritable feast for the eyes, as most of the old building stock are well maintained while the rest are in the process of being renovated and the areas gentrified. We may invest in property locally, as a lot of young folks are moving here from Sydney and the rental returns are better than Sydney. We also visited the Newcastle Art Gallery.

The School of Arts – just a small sample of historical Newcastle.

Walking along the harbourfront – someone put Christmas decorations on this tree

Summer solstice sunset, 21st December – we had a walk, swim and picnic at Nobby’s Beach.

Annie in particular, did a lot of walking with Michelle, who is working hard to strengthen her knee after her knee arthroscopy, in preparation for a hiking tour to Europe from June to August 2022 – Covid allowing. Karen and Evan are practising for another triathlon in Jervis Bay and I did a lot of reading and as usual, thinking – and listening to music.

Karen giving me a pre-Christmas haircut.

On Christmas Eve, Karen and Evan had their annual  Orphan’s dinner (persons without parents in Newcastle). This year only about 20 friends attended, because, with Covid restrictions temporarily lifted, many were able to travel home. The evening was a rip roaring affair with some hilarious quiz games prepared by Paula and Nick. Lots of food, drinks, music and laughter until late, with a wonderful group of young people.

Annie & Karen with their ham before putting it into the oven.

Quiz mistress Paula explaining the rules.

The 3 teams ready to roll with the quiz.

Charades – scene from “Titanic”

Oops! I don’t think this was in the script.

Team no. 3 members cheering on their actors.

Molly and Nick’s suggestive act comes to an end.

On Christmas Day we went for a walk and a swim at Merewether Beach, followed by a traditional family seafood lunch of salmon, prawns and salads at Karen’s house – Evan had lunch with his family. After two big successive meals, we all needed a Nanna nap!

G’day Merewether Beach.

The girls with Christmas lunch.

Farzher and Shelly with Aperols.

Not for long though, as on Boxing Day, it was the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which had a glued to the TV. The rest of Australia’s cricket tragics were watching the third Ashes test against the Poms in Melbourne, where the Aussies won and retained the Ashes.

The rest of the week leading up to the New Year was spent doing things on the boat like fitting beach wheels to our dinghy and using Eugene’s gurney to give the dinghy and Esprit’s deck, cockpit and topsides a good clean and polish afterwards. I also managed to do a few maintenance jobs for Karen at her house. On the 31st we cleaned the house and moved back to the boat after 14 days at Eugene’s house, which was a welcome break for us on land.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening for us with both Karen and Michelle and their friends camping and walking in the bush. Newcastle put on a very good fireworks display which we enjoyed with a bottle of wine and snacks on our deck. New Year’s Day and Annie’s 67th birthday, turned out a sunny day and after a hearty breakfast prepared by moi, we cycled to Newcastle Beach where we joined the locals worshipping the sun and swimming.

In the evening, we had a fabulous roast leg of lamb on our Weber Baby Q with all the accoutrements and the company of Karen and Evan. The start of a promising new year was ahead for all of us.

The following week saw us visiting Evan’s 96 year old Grandma Hedi for tea and cake. I also went for a medical checkup with a local doctor. We had a visit for lunch from Ron & Dot Thompson, our neighbours in Sydney and a lunch BBQ at Evan’s mom Vicky, while waiting for the new rudder bearings for Esprit to arrive from Sydney.

The 12th January marked our 26th anniversary in Australia, which we toasted with champagne, happy to be living in this wonderful country.

G’day mate! (Newcastle Art Gallery)

We departed Newcastle on Friday 14th January 2022, for the 63 nm sail to the Royal Motor Yacht Club, on the Pittwater at Newport in Sydney. Karen & Michelle sailed the last leg with us, with Karen enjoying steering all the way in the good breeze.

Leaving Newcastle with a cargo vessel entering the harbour.

Leaving Newcastle behind.

The Girls.

Entering the Pittwater sailing past the familiar Barrenjoey lighthouse.

Karen at the wheel.

Michelle belting out a Bonnie Raitt song with Lion Island in the background.

Welcomed at RMYC by my dear friend Ron Watson.

Professor Balogh, Karen’s boss, explaining the bloodline of his champion homing pigeons.

Drawing a parallel with our homecoming, we release two of his champion homing pigeons.

Thus ended the journey we started from RMYC on the 15th May 2016, finishing back here after 5 years and 8 months. During this time Esprit has covered 38,937 nm (72,111 km), including the 1,603 nm from Cairns back to Sydney. An experience we have thoroughly enjoyed, but which won’t be our last. We will keep you posted on events during 2022 and beyond. Cheers for now!

Esprit’s route around the world. (Click to enlarge)

 

Yamba to Newcastle, NSW.

Yamba to Newcastle, NSW.

Map Yamba to Newcastle. (click to enlarge)

During our stay in Yamba it became clear that the eastern Australian region had moved into a La Nina cycle with rain and southerly winds. The usual El Nino cycle at this time of the year would be dryer with N-W to N-E winds.

The Yamba Farmers market.

All this for $22 at the market.

Over at our neighbours Bill and Sophie, for dinner on their Dufour 45.

The rain and wind direction had us waiting in Yamba for a week, before we set off on the 30th November for Coffs Harbour beating into a 12-14 knot southerly. We were desperate to get out of the flooding and muddy Clarence River, colouring our recently polished hull brown.

Wet, but still smiling.

After a wet 65 nm sail, at 9pm we picked up a courtesy mooring in Coffs Harbour where we stayed for four nights, enjoying the Muttonbird Island and Coffs Creek walks, as well as stocking up on provisions and visiting the coffee shops.

Start of the walk up to the top of the island.

Thousands of Shearwater birds build their burrows on the island and nest here. (click to enlarge)

Halfway up, the view back to Coffs Harbour.

Raised walkways to protect the burrows.

At the Coffs dog beach, the dogs have showers.

The lovely Coffs Creek mangrove boardwalk.

This SUP lady on the creek has a lazy and an energetic dog.

Concrete sculpture next to the fishing harbour.

On the 4th December the wind turned N-W and we set sail enjoying a fast 38 nm sail to Trial Bay, hoisting the asymmetric spinnaker at 8:30 and tearing it during a gust, an hour later – bugger!

Annie hoisting the spinnaker.

Michelle flying the spinnaker.

That was not the end of our dramas though. As we dropped our main and jib to enter the Macleay River in Trial Bay, we realised that the wind which had turned east, was creating breaking waves over the bar against the outflowing river. We had to enter the river though, as a huge black southwester with lightning was approaching us from ahead.

We donned our life jackets, upped the engine revs to 3,000 rpm and gunned it into the narrow channel, once hitting the sand bar and fighting to keep the stern square to the breaking waves. We twice had the boat surfing a breaking wave, managing not to turn her sideways and broach the boat. This was white knuckle stuff, with Michelle and I each on a steering wheel to maintain traction and Annie calling out the course and depth ahead. After what felt like an hour we motored into the river. Bliss!

No sooner had we anchored two miles upstream at 2pm, than the S-E storm hit us, with rain so heavy, you couldn’t see more than 50 m and the flashes of lightning around us – we had just turned all the electronics off. About this time I received an alert from the Bureau of Meteorology, warning us of extreme rainfall, hail and flooding in our area. Yes, thanks!

Unfortunately, there are no photos to support this thrilling account, as there were no free hands to record this. By 4:30pm there was just a light drizzle, allowing Michelle to dinghy ashore and hitchhike into South West Rocks to go and vote in the NSW State elections – thus avoiding a $55 fine for not voting. On reaching Sydney, we will inform the Electoral Commission of our return to the world of elections – ending a 6 year break for us in this regard.

During the next 24 hours the rain beat down relentlessly, with logs, branches and debris floating past us, with a river even muddier than the one we had left behind. Our regular Sunday weather update from MetBob (Bob McDavitt in NZ) stated that the Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that it was the wettest November on record in Australia. The attached satellite photos from Windy shows that atmospheric rivers have recently been streaming clouds across the North Pacific, from the tropics to western US and Canada, bringing record-breaking rainfall.

Windy satellite photo 20 November 2021.

We consoled ourselves with walks in the rain to monitor the waves coming over the bar and walking the 8.5 km round trip to South West Rocks and back. The Riverside Tavern next to our anchorage served generous meals at good prices. The tavern also offered Michelle good internet and a quiet spot to conduct a meeting with her colleagues in India on Monday afternoon, before we set sail with a northerly on Tuesday the 7th December.

Walking out on the breakwater – they should have this sign out at sea!

Two days later – still breaking waves out there.

Walking through South West Rocks – wildlife on the pavement.

The waves at the bar was substantially less when we departed at 8am and we set sail in a 7 knot easterly. By 2pm the wind turned to a brisk northerly and we poled out the jib to average 7-8 knots SOG downwind.

Poled out jib going downwind.

The plan was to do an overnight sail to Port Stephens, 150 nm to the Southwest, but a big storm with worrying bolts of lightning was bearing down on us, about 15 miles from Forster/Tuncurry at 9pm. We altered course and after the 100 nm passage, we entered the river at the Tuncurry, north side of the river, as the Forster, south side is too shallow.

The narrow navigable channel at the Fish Co-op anchorage on the Tuncurry side was also too shallow, so we went out again and anchored in the middle of the fairway channel in 5 metres of water at 11:30pm. I hardly slept as the rain was bucketing down and the strong out flowing and then in flowing currents tested our anchor and chain. All was still good the next morning.

Next morning, looking across to Tuncurry.

During this passage, I became aware of a knocking sound coming from the rudder. The top and bottom Teflon rudder bearings/bushes have been replaced first in Langkawi, Thailand and later in Preveza, Greece. A scenario that worries me, is losing the rudder, so the following morning I checked the top bearing from inside the lazarette locker and Michelle went into the water with goggles to check the movement at the bottom bearing. The bearings needed replacing again.

Good to have a willing skipper during these conditions.

It was a cold, wet and windy 50 nm sail down to Port Stephens, where we anchored in Shoal Bay at 6:30pm. The duty officer at the Marine Rescue base welcomed us on VHF 16 and informed us that another storm would hit Port Stephens in about 30 minutes. It rained solidly the whole night. We were now really over this sh1t weather, but at 7am the rain stopped and Annie and Michelle could go for a walk, while I cleaned the stove and scrubbed the cockpit floor.

Sailing past Port Stephens lighthouse on Shark Island.

Sailing past Broughton Island just before Port Stephens.

The anchor was lifted at 10am, but there was very little wind, so we ended up motoring the 30 nm to Newcastle, where we tied up at the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club marina at 4pm. Karen and Evan arrived after work at 6pm for an emotional welcome and sundowners. They treated us to a tagine dinner at their favourite Moroccan restaurant.

Approaching Nobbys lighthouse at Newcastle.

Newcastle skyline.

A tug following us in.

Karen & Michelle at dinner.

We will be in Newcastle for the next month to enjoy Christmas and the New Year with our daughters and their friends. Karen and Evan Quinn recently got engaged, so we look forward to getting to know him and to meet his family.

Evan Quinn and Karen Muller.

Karen also received the news that she passed a masters degree in surgical education from Melbourne University with first class honours and will be graduating in March 2022.

We should be back in Sydney during January, after almost six years away and will keep you posted on our plans for 2022. If Covid restrictions allow, we want to sail back into the Western Pacific to see the islands we have missed due to Covid border closures. We are thinking Sydney to Lord Howe Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and back via New Zealand.

If this is not possible and the French borders are open, we will rent or buy a canal boat and explore the French canals. (Canal boats cost much less than a big 4×4 SUV for the wife’s shopping trips)

Watch this space, have a merry Christmas, a prosperous New Year and a Covid free 2022. It has to be better than 2021!

Cheers for now, Annie and Dirk.

Brisbane to Yamba, NSW.

Brisbane to Yamba, NSW.

Map Brisbane to Yamba NSW (click to enlarge)

Leaving Brisbane on the 10th November at the 2pm high tide, in order to use the outgoing tide while motoring down the river, it still took us three hours to the harbour. There, we were met by a 30 knot Northerly wind, which under jib alone, had us flying downwind to Peel Island, 18 nm to the South in Moreton Bay.

Kayo, our Japanese friend takes a farewell photo.

Having got stuck on a sandbank between South Stradbroke Island and the mainland for an hour, on our northward journey six years ago, we carefully timed our passage down this waterway. We left Peel Island at 10am the next day, to reach Jacobs Well at 2pm and motor sail the rest of the 27 nm to Paradise Point on the Gold Coast.

Danie, Esme and Annie.

Arriving at Paradise Point, we got hit by massive squalls and a rain storm as we tried three times to anchor in the deluge, finally setting the anchor on the fourth try. Wet and miserable, we took a few calming whiskeys before an early night. It was still drizzling the next morning but cleared long enough to get old friends Danie and Esme Maritz on board for coffee and brownies to celebrate Danie’s 72nd birthday.

The Boat Works. The aerial photo is of the Tangalooma wrecks, where we anchored the week before.

It was a winding trip 6 nm up the Coomera River to anchor outside the Boat Works, where we had a jolly BBQ evening with fellow sailors who had their boats on the hard at this yard. It was a slow recovery the next day.

Excellent BBQ facility.

On Monday morning the 15th, Esprit was lifted out of the water, pressure cleaned and parked in a work bay. Xavier from ProYacht set to work and by 4pm had the hull sanded down. The next morning he masked the hull and spray painted it with two coats of Micron Extra 2.

Esprit being pressure cleaned.

In the meantime Kai had started cutting the dull gelcoat on the topsides and polishing it to a glossy shine. I replaced the anodes on the sail drive, while Xavier applied the Trilux 33 paint around the sail drive and Propspeed to the folding prop.

Kai doing the polishing.

Annie and I started early and finished late each day, scraping out the adhesive sealant around the entire hull/deck joint and cleaning the joint with acetone, in order for Isaac, to caulk the joint anew. While we had him, Annie got him to do the same with the kitchen and bathroom tops.

Xavier’s lady assistant applies anti fouling to the bottom of the keel.

After the flat chat programme and to our surprise, all the work was done in three days – having allowed a week on the hard for this. So, Esprit was lifted back into the water again on the Thursday. We filled the tank with diesel and motored down to Paradise Point for a farewell BBQ on board with the Maritz’s, to say thank you for the loan of a car for 4 days.

In she goes again – as clean as a whistle.

A night was spent anchored off the Spit at the Gold Coast Seaway for a 5 am start the next morning to sail the 70nm to Ballina in New South Wales. We had a good northerly wind and south flowing current with us and as we sailed into NSW at Tweed Heads, a strong gust ripped the seam of the lowest panel in the mainsail from luff to leach – bummer!

Anchored off the Spit at the Gold Coast Seaway.

We reefed the main to above the tear and carried on sailing, realising as we passed Australia’s most easterly point at Cape Byron, we were going too fast to enter the bar at Ballina on a rising tide. We dropped the main and with a reduced jib slowed down to 6 knots to reach the Ballina breakwater at low tide at 4pm.

Tied up at the Ballina public jetty.

Esprit was tied up to the Ballina public jetty at 4:30, where our daughter Michelle was waiting fo us for an emotional reunion after more than two years. We celebrated with a few G&T’s and had a Spanish Mackerel BBQ to welcome Michelle.

Michelle welcoming us.

Mother and daughter reunion.

Michelle’s photo of Darby and Joan.

On the Sunday an old school friend Johann Schroder and his partner Felice joined us for tea. Michelle joined us later after surfing, before driving back to Byron Bay to tie up arrangements for her shared office space and a friend to drive her van back to Sydney.

Dirk, Johann and Felice.

On the Monday Johann picked us up to visit their farm inland at Uki and have dinner with them. This area, from Ballina to Uki in the Tweed River Valley is exceptionally beautiful.

Farm dinner – Johann and Annie.

Some of the historical buildings in Ballina.

The following day we set off with Michelle to motor sail the 45 nm to Yamba on the Clarence River. We had a hairy entry across the bar, surfing in while fishing boats passed us, going out to sea. A lot of rain was predicted for the next week, so we enjoyed Yamba and did some walks around town and looked at properties.

Walking to the Yamba lighthouse.

One of Michelle’s surfing spots – Pipi’s Beach.

Here in Yamba there were reminders of two Australian sailing legends, Kay Cottee and Jesse Martin:

On 5 June 1988, Kay Cottee fulfilled a childhood dream. After covering more than 22,000 nautical miles in 189 days at sea she became the first woman in history to complete a solo, nonstop and unassisted voyage around the world. Kay is now the co-owner of the Yamba marina.

Kay Cottee.

On 31 October 1999, at the age of eighteen, Jesse Martin sailed into the record books in his yacht Lionheart, by becoming the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. His 34ft Sparkman and Stephens, Lionheart lies at anchor in Yamba.

Jesse Martin.

Lionheart in Yamba today.

They are however, not alone: In Western Australia, there is Jon Sanders, the first man to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, circling the continent twice in 1981/2.

In 1986 Sanders set out again from Fremantle, and this time completed three solo non-stop circumnavigations aboard his 47ft yacht Parry Endeavour – each time his course covered both hemispheres.

On the 31 January 2021 Sanders completed his eleventh solo world circumnavigation, which makes the 81 year old one of the oldest persons to sail single handed around the world.

Jon Sanders.

Jessica Watson from Mooloolaba in Queensland did a solo world circumnavigation at the age of 16. Departing Sydney on 18 October 2009, she arrived back in Sydney on 15 May 2010, after 210 days.

Jessica Watson.

Annie and I prefer the more relaxed and mundane cruising way around the world, which took almost six years and allowed us to see new parts of the world. Different strokes for different folks!

Our next stop will be Coffs Harbour – until then, cheers.

Fraser Island to Brisbane.

Fraser Island to Brisbane.

Route: Fraser Island to Brisbane. Click to enlarge.

On the 28 th October 2021, we filled the water tanks and motored out of Bundaberg Marina, with the promise of a good N-E wind to take us south to the Great Sandy Strait between Fraser Island and the mainland. Fraser Island is the world’s biggest sand island – from Sandy Cape in the North to Wide Bay Bar in the South it is 70nm (130 km) long. After 53 nm of very strong winds, we anchored on the southern leeward side of Big Woody Island in the Strait.

In the lee of Big Woody Island.

Sailing past North White Cliffs in the Great Sandy Strait.

As with the Narrows at Curtis Island, you have to get your tides spot-on to cross at high tide, at the shallows at Boonlye Point halfway down. We set off under sail at 11:00 and crossed the shallowest sandbanks at 13:30, only hitting the sandbanks twice, and using the engine to get us off again. For the rest of the 34 nm Strait, we sailed under jib sail to Pelican Bay inside Wide Bay Bar, where we spent an anxious night bouncing in the strong wind.

The car ferry taking vehicles from Pelican Bay to the island.

At 4:30 the next morning we motored out to cross the Bar at high tide – placid this time, compared to our nerve wracking crossing 6 years ago. Then we got lifted by a huge wave to surf across the bar at 14 knots in a 25 knot S-E – totally out of control and thankfully, not broaching the boat.

Sunrise over the placid White Bay Bar.

It took us 12 hours with a light N-E wind to sail the 66 nm to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. We were very happy to anchor in the “Duck Pond” inside Mooloolaba harbour, as a strong five day S-E wind was forecast from the following day – useless to us when sailing south.

Approaching Mooloolaba heads.

The anchorage was packed with other boats sailing south at this time of the year. The strong S-E came through during the night and we dragged our anchor three times during the night, finally getting a good bite clear of the other boats on the third try.

The high rise buildings of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.

The Sunday was spent keeping an eye on our anchor during the 35 knot gusts, writing a post for our blog, editing photos and sending emails. We also phoned family and the kids as we now had good phone reception – the first time in a while.

This guy using the S-E wind on a foiling board with batman sail on the pond.

Elin Powers and Rick Nothard, who we met on Freedom in the Whitsundays, live on their farm near Kenilworth, about 40 minutes inland from Mooloolaba. They picked us up at 9am on the Tuesday to show us the region. We spent a pleasant day driving into the hills, having coffee and pies in Maleny, visiting Mapleton and viewing the waterfall leading to the Mary River.

Coffees in Maleny.

The waterfall.

View across the Mary River Valley from the waterfall.

There is a very good street artist in Kenilworth.

It can’t be easy to paint so well on corrugated iron sheeting!

We had lunch on their farm with a walk down to the river, before driving back to Mooloolaba where we had a Spanish Mackerel BBQ on Esprit. It was a pleasant day on land.

A view across the farm.

After exploring Mooloolaba a bit more, after four days, we sailed from here in a lighter S-E wind to Tangalooma, on Moreton Island. The next day we navigated the shipping channels and sandbanks in Moreton Bay to enter Brisbane harbour.

Mooloolaba beachfront.

Tangalooma anchorage.

Sailing into Brisbane harbour.

It is 11 nm from the entrance into the Brisbane River to the city and the closer you get, the busier the water traffic. Like Sydney, the city has an excellent ferry service and the City Cats travel at high speeds. There are also many pleasure craft and Jet Skis with tourists on them. We tied up to a new “River Hub” which is a floating jetty for 12 boats, next to the Botanical Gardens, very central and very scenic.

Sailing under the impressive Gateway bridge.

Approaching the old Story bridge.

Esprit tied up to the River Hub.

“Bris Vegas” as the New South Welshmen call this city, has an impressive skyline of modern tower blocks with some remaining old historical buildings tucked in between. The people enjoy their cycling and jogging along the scenic walkways on both sides of the river.

The botanical gardens next to our River Hub.

An old Moreton Bay fig tree.

Modern Skyscrapers.

A well preserved church.

Bris Vegas by night from Esprit.

We explored the city on foot and by bike, visiting the South Bank – easy since the terrain is relatively flat and also along the shore to New Farm.

The city from the South Bank.

Kids having fun on the South Bank.

Illustration of the new bridge under construction to link the South Bank to the city.

We visit GOMA.

Impressive entrance foyer.

Exhibit from the Australian Art section.

During the Covid lockdown in the Caribbean last year, we spent two months in Bequia where we became friends with sailors from around the world. Among them, Gary and Angela Smith from Cape Town who after we left for Panama, sailed to Cuba, Mexico and Guatemala. On the 6th November we got news that they were critically ill with Covid in a hospital in Guatemala – they chose not to be vaccinated. Two days later, Gary passed away, with Angela still critical, but recovering. Vale Gary.

Gary and Dirk.

Annie and Angela.

On a more positive note: There are two other boats tied up with us at this River Hub, both sailed by single handed female sailors – Go girls! Margaret from New Zealand on “Iron Maiden” and Kayo Ozaki on Nausikaa”, originally from Japan, but for the last 30 years from Sydney.

Iron Maiden – a Kiwi steel boat.

Kayo’s sailing career is an inspiration: She was given a two day sailing course voucher for her 40th birthday by a girlfriend. She was hooked, but found it difficult to find a berth on a boat as an oriental single mother. So she sold her house and bought this 34 ft boat, which she has sailed single handed from Sydney to Japan and back.

Kayo on her 34 footer.

At 57 years she is preparing to sail to Darwin, then to Cape Town and then do a circumnavigation – single handedly! An inspiration for women.

Kayo and Nausikaa.

Annie also managed to get good retail therapy at the clothing shops and dragged me to Uni Glo for new shirts and shorts. I was quite happy with Big W, so felt quite out of place. After five days at the 30 minutes time limit River Hub, we will catch the tide down the river to Brisbane harbour on Wednesday arvo the 10th November, to sail down to the Gold Coast. We will haul Esprit out at the Boat Works in Coomera for pressure cleaning, antifouling paint and topside polishing on the 15th and will report on progress down to New South Wales in our next post. Cheers for now.